Vegan meals are now the UK’s fastest growing take-away choice, with orders up by 388% between 2016 to 2018, according to research by the British Takeaway Campaign. Orders of vegetarian food have also increased by 136%.
The group said the takeaway sector has responded with speed to the shift in consumer demand for vegan, vegetarian and healthy options. Over 90% of takeaway restaurants now offer vegetarian options with more than half also catering for gluten free, dairy free and vegan customers, it said.
Other cuisines to see significant growth over the last two years are Greek (69%), Caribbean (56%), Persian (34%) and Thai (24%).
The findings also show that over a third of takeaway restaurants provide calorie and nutritional information. However, the cost and difficulty of calculating calories is cited as a major barrier to providing further information, said the BTC. Calculating calories can result in a substantial cost for businesses, many of which do not have the levels of infrastructure or regular income needed to implement full-scale calorie labelling.
Technology has also been central to the growth of the sector, providing new and innovative routes to market for small, independent takeaway restaurants. Almost 35,000 takeaways and restaurants now use online apps.
Ibrahim Dogus, BTC’s chair, said: “Over the last three years, the takeaway sector has transformed. Go back 20 years or so and the choice of food-to-go on the local high street was typically limited to just a few cuisines – an Indian curry, an Italian pizza, a Chinese Chow Mein, an American burger or some fish-n-chips. Now over 100 cuisines are available at a click of a button – from Japanese sushi or Kurdish kebabs to Lebanese mezze and Ghanaian jollof rice – so many UK towns and cities have food from all corners of the world available on their doorstep.”
This transformation has meant that the UK’s takeaway sector has grown at almost twice the rate of the overall economy, with total spending rising to £12.5 billion in 2018, an increase of 18% since 2015. Total consumer spending on takeaways has risen to £12.5 billion in 2018, up from £10.6 billion in 2015.
BTC called on the UK government to review its immigration plans post Brexit to protect the sector. The industry supported around 286,800 jobs in 2018, an increase of almost 13,000 jobs since 2015, employing more people than the Telecoms, Advertising or Insurance sectors, said BTC.
“Under current government plans, the UK’s post Brexit immigration system will require all EU and non-EU citizens to earn at least £30,000. Our research shows that just 6% of the entire takeaway sector earn an annual salary above £30,000. Additionally, under the Government’s current immigration system, chefs are included on a Shortage Occupation List which prioritises professions that are in demand – but for entry under this scheme they are required to earn over £29,570.”
Dogus added: “What we need from the Government are policies that support this Great British success story. That means more vocational training for young Brits and an immigration system that ensures that skilled chefs can come to the UK too.”
The state of the UK takeaway sector
• The number of takeaway restaurants is up 25 percent since 2015 – from 30,189 to 37,732.
• The number of jobs is up 5 percent since 2015 – from 273,961 to 286, 798
• 40% of takeaway owners are first-time entrepreneurs.
• £5.9 billion of additional direct wealth was created for the UK economy in 2018 as well as a further £3.2 billion through its supply chain and £3.2 billion from spending by those employed in the sector.
• The value created by takeaways makes up almost 12% percent of the entire food services industry
The news comes as Formula One superstar Lewis Hamilton announced he is opening a vegan burger restaurant in London. He is collaborating with hospitality company The Cream Group, and Beyond Meat investor Tommaso Chiabra to launch the plant-based Neat Burger on 2 September.
“Neat Burger promises to transform the way people see plant-based food by appealing not only to those who follow plant-based diets, but any individuals – meat-eaters included – who want delicious, meat-free dishes that are more sustainable, healthier and ethical,” the brand said.
Meanwhile, Whole Foods' vegan CEO John Mackey isn't a fan of plant-based meat. He told CNBC that meat replacements are too processed and not great for your health.
"If you look at the ingredients, they are super highly processed foods… I don't think eating highly processed foods is healthy. I think people thrive on eating whole foods."